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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interview with Karen Essex Part 2

This is part 2 of the Interview with Karen Essex - author of Dracula in Love. You can check out part 1 (posted yesterday) featuring questions about the inspiration behind her newest book at Lions and Men.

4. Dracula in Love has a sexual edge to it – what is the significance behind this?

I wanted the novel to be lush and erotic. In the late Victorian era, female sexuality could not be expressed. In fact, as the reader will see in Dracula in Love, women were often diagnosed as being sexual hysterics or nymphomaniacs for expressing what we today consider normal sexual desires. Stoker’s Dracula is seething with unexpressed sensuality. I wanted to hit that head on and speak what could not be uttered back in Mina Harker’s time. It is my privilege as a 21st century woman to be able to be sexually free and to express it on the page. That privilege was not allowed to my ancestresses. Besides the fact that I like writing about sex, which I believe I do well without being crass or graphic, I wanted to make a point about female sexual expression. We don’t see enough of it expressed joyously.

5. What sort of resources and research did you do while writing Dracula in Love?

I am a research freak. I moved to London and took a flat in a neighborhood that was developed in 1890, the year the book takes place. I wanted to breathe in the atmosphere as I wrote. I made my usual substantive study of the era, reading as many documents from the period and studying the art, culture, design, sexual and social mores, religious beliefs, customs, and laws concerning the rights, or lack thereof, of women. I scoured the archives of late 19th century insane asylums so I could make those scenes in the book vivid. I also studied the Victorian fascination with the metaphysical. Victorian culture is very complex; it’s lush, extravagant, and technologically advanced, and, restrained, contained, and superstitious, all at once.

As for travel, I went to southern Austria, which was Bram Stoker’s first choice for Dracula’s home before he settled on Transylvania. I went to Whitby where so much of the original was set, and to the west coast of Ireland, the birthplace of Stoker’s mother. Strangely, I had set Sligo as Mina’s birthplace before I learned that Stoker’s mother was born there, and that he grew up hearing tales of ghost stories and Irish folklore.

6. What can we look forward to from you in the future? Do you have any other plans for literature based novels?

Ideas are reeling and churning. I cannot say exactly what is next but I can assure you that I am not done with the supernatural. Someday I hope to write a sequel to Dracula in Love. I have loads and loads of ideas. I will never live long enough to write all of them unless (as I hope) I get lucky enough to meet a certain Count.

Essex was born and raised in New Orleans. She was graduated from Tulane University, attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and received an MFA in Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. She’s appeared on The Today Show and A Word on Words hosted by John Seigenthaler, as well as other PBS and NPR programs. She’s lectured at the Chicago Museum of Art, and extensively at universities. Her books are taught in many college courses from creative writing to history to women’s studies. You can visit Karen's website to learn more about her and her books.

At Lions and Men today you can also check out Nick's discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of vampires, as presented by Bram Stoker.

Also - check out this video!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Great, great interview! I'm half through Dracula in Love and adoring it -- the research Ms Essex did is so clear in the novel. I think many people forget that the Victorian era was one of such double standards -- repression yet obsession with sex, etc -- and Ms Essex really draws that out.

    I would die of joy for a sequel to this book!

    Thank you for the interview.

  2. Fantastic interview. I truly liked all the questions and the answers were great.

    I do appreciate an author who researches what they are about to write. More times than not, those book where research was done are the greater for it.

    I also appreciate Ms. Essex's approach towards the sexuality of the times and of vampires. It makes complete sense to me.

    I now, more so than before, have a strong desire to read this book. Perfect timing, as the Fall is approaching and I am gearing up to do some horror type reading.

  3. Great conclusion to the interview. Despite my misgivings of another vampire "lite" novel I'm back on the side of giving this one a shot. It won't be at the top of my list but I will read it someday. I want to thank both of you guys for an interesting week so far.

  4. @Ryan -- I can appreciate your reticence but I would encourage you to bump this one up higher on your TBR. In a deliciously sneaky way, Ms Essex explores the mores of that era in a way Stoker couldn't (literature wasn't that honest, really) and it makes for a delicious mirror to the original.

  5. Audra, You guys are slowl convincing me but I don't know. I'm always reluctant to try out this new vampire mold that's been going on. I can't stand Twilight and even most of the new vampire movies, for lack of a better phrase, lack bite.

    I'm going to read it, I promise and when I do I will let you guys know what I thought of it.

  6. Audra - I really think that she did a great job at the research behind this novel.

    Ryan G - I'm glad we are slowly convincing you - I can't stand Twilight either and have no desire to read it or see it. But I don't think this book is anything like Twilight.

    Ibeeeg - This fall is a prefect time to read it!

  7. What a great interview and video comment by the author. Karen is a most interesting woman. Her dedication to her research so she could get the right feel for the time period is commendable.

  8. Library Pat - I thought the video was very well done and I think she did some wonderful research!


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